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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2004

From wild wolf to domestic dog: gene expression changes in the brain

Saetre P, Lindberg J, Leonard JA, Olsson K, Pettersson U, Ellegren H, Bergstrom TF, Vila C, Jazin E


Despite the relatively recent divergence time between domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and gray wolves (Canis lupus), the two species show remarkable behavioral differences. Since dogs and wolves are nearly identical at the level of DNA sequence, we hypothesize that the two species may differ in patterns of gene expression. We compare gene expression patterns in dogs, wolves and a close relative, the coyote (Cams latrans), in three parts of the brain: hypothalamus, amygdala and frontal cortex, with microarray technology. Additionally, we identify genes with region-specific expression patterns in all three species. Among the wild canids, the hypothalamus has a highly conserved expression profile. This contrasts with a marked divergence in domestic dogs. Real-time PCR experiments confirm the altered expression of two neuropeptides, CALCB and NPY Our results suggest that strong selection on dogs for behavior during domestication may have resulted in modifications of mRNA expression patterns in a few hypothalamic genes with multiple functions. This study indicates that rapid changes in brain gene expression may not be exclusive to the development of human brains. Instead, they may provide a common mechanism for rapid adaptive changes during speciation, particularly in cases that present strong selective pressures on behavioral characters. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


wolf; dog; behaviour; gene

Published in

Molecular Brain Research
2004, Volume: 126, number: 2, pages: 198-206

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    Veterinary Science
    Animal and Dairy Science

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